Okay, so I tricked you. This web page really isn't about an exciting trip to Yellowstone National Park, with awe-inspiring photos of skyward erupting geysers, bubbling mud pots, and wildlife that you can get so close to that with one flick of a horn or hoof, you can have your innards ripped out and spread all about the local fauna. Nope. Sorry. This page is all about our stay at the Old Faithful Inn. A rather handsome lodge, which has elements to it built slightly past 1900, with various wings and other attachments being built throughout the three decades or so.
Ah, the glorious ways of rustic vacationland at the Old Faithful Inn. Upon entering the beautifully restored lobby area (below), I became fairly excited that my room would be getting the same treatment of care and professionalism in it's restoration.
But where the exciting lobby ends, THAT'S where the rustic vacationing experience begins. For $92 a night (tax not included), you get a medium level room, which is quite pleasantly shown on their website. And while the main sleeping area of the room is sparse, but somewhat fitting, there are other, more scary elements at work here. For the sake of disclaiming purposes, we were in room 2071, in the West Wing, which according to the literature, was built in 1928.
While I understand that this is an old, old building, and I somewhat understand that parts of it have been renovated (I'm assuming the $300+ a night suites are the ones that are mostly renovated) there are certain requirements that I would expect of a hotel room which I would get at a Super 8 or Red Roof Inn at half the price I paid. For example:
Upon entering our humble abode for the four exciting days, I quickly threw open the window shades to let more light in our room. While I knew that we did not get one of the more expensive "Old Faithful"-view rooms, the rooms on the other side of the wing will either get an expansive view of a parking lot, or, in our case, an interesting view of thermal features which surround the inn and the "vacation village" area. While not as cool as the geyser basin, it is interesting none the less (you will either go "Cool!" or "You stayed next to a toxic waste dump?"); below is quick photo I took out of our window later in the trip.
I would like to point out that from now on, most of the photos will be color balanced somewhat badly, as there is a combination between outdoor light from the windows, and indoor lighting. Plus, my flash doesn't work too well in close quarters. But I'm really not here to discuss colors, anyway. On with the show!
A cold front was moving in; it turns out that the 'average' 60 degreen high would be about 35 for the week we were in town. And I could feel every bit of the cold wind coming from the window. Upon closer inspection, it appeared that the window was about ready to fall out.
Note the remants of double sided sticky tape in the closeup. That whole area of the frame of the window SHOULD be nicely snuggled into the top part of the window casing, in order to keep the guests warm and breeze-free. That white spot right above the corner of the window is a straight shot to the cold, and unforgiving mountain air, while the black/brown area between the casing and the window is the frame for the screen.
Now I'm assuming, this type of window was hardly in the designs of the original architect, Robert C. Reamer. In fact, I have proof!! Apparently, this window has been shunted in it's proper place before with various other methods, such as the sticky tape, and by using my 'solution,' which was to hold up the window by using the window lock.
This solution worked to some extent, as the crack size did become somewhat lessened, but not fully shut. And now the lock felt like it had a lot of stress on it (remember, these are 1930's windows, when real men made real windows out of the heaviest glass and wood available, not the weenie aluminum stuff nowadays). Also note how nice and shiny the window lock is, indicating that it is probably NOT original 1928 hardware. Also note the clues of wood screws being ripped out of the window frame in eerily the same pattern that one would expect of another, previously placed window lock. Hmmmmm, I wonder how that happened?
Either way, this would indicate to me that either A)a previous guest had broken off the previous window hardware trying to shunt the window back in it's place, or stolen it, and then drove back into town (80 miles to Jackson Hole) and secretly replaced it, or B) a previous guest and broken it off as described above, and alerted the hotel staff, who, in their alert manner, decided to replace the window lock instead of fixing the real problem.
Oh well, the cold air brings us to the next luxurious feature that the rich and well-to-do experienced back in the 30's. I decided to turn on the radiator.
The heating system was a one of a kind when the Inn was built. It was actually run by a central heating unit that pumped hot air to all of the radiators in the complex. Of course, that lavish account from the history books doesn't explain the rotting hole in the carpet from water drippings as seen above. Nor does it explain why the radiator does not heat up or do anything when dailing from a snowflake icon to a number 5. A call to complain to the front desk explains that they'll have someone up to look at the window, and the hotel doesn't turn on the central units until the air temperature drops below 30 degrees outside. Swell.
Eventually a maintenance man comes in, looks at the window, notes another place where someone has jammed something into the frame to solve the leakage problem. He mumbles something about 'this old hotel' and tells us that someone will look at it tomorrow since it is 9PM at this time. This part of the story concludes here, since we never saw any proof of any maintenance man that came during the 4 further days we stayed there. However, at this point, the hotel has decided that, yes, it will be cold tonight, so the central heat has turned on at this point, and the radiator is radiating just fine.
I do want to pause here, for the exciting tale of the "Radiator and the Ghost of Robert Reamer" will continue soon. But in the meantime, I'd like to spend some time showing off the wonderous facilities of the, well, facilities.
While I wasn't expecting a shower (which as their website claims, only some of the mid-level rooms come with a shower), I was fully expecting a bathroom, while spartan, at least kept up in a respectable condition. It should also be noted that the sink was out in the main room with a mirror, in case you were wondering where that was.
Aside from the toilet behind the door, this is it. Which would have been fine except for all of the exciting details which I'm sure wowed the guests back in 1930. But nowadays, seems slightly tacky, and just out and out rude for a $90 a night room.
Note the turn-of-the-century styling of calking around the tub. Yes, I'm sure the architect would be proud. Good thing I'm basically blind when I take off my glasses to take my bath. Also of interest is the fact that the faucet seemingly has a working shower pull-rod on it, yet the room has no shower to speak of. Pull the shower nubby up, and the water stops coming from the faucet, and you can still hear water rushing through the 75 year-old walls. But WHERE DOES IT GO? It should be noted that the water was exceedingly warm, especially considering what I was fully expecting the water temperature to be based on the care of the bathroom. And the hot water had an added bonus since, for some reason, the bathroom was unheated. Yet, they kept a rather quaint radiator in the corner for atmosphere:
Other things I learned as I took these photos, was that the tub made horrible cracking noises as a stepped into it. I guess this is to better warn guest of what could happen if they stray from the walkways, and break through the thin crust of rock into the boiling cauldrons of water out on the geyser basins. Except in this case, you'd just break through the bottom of the tub, shrink 3 inches, and feel like a moron. No exciting tales of peeled boiling flesh here at the Inn, I suppose. Also, I didn't bother to take a photo of the 75 year old cob web cluster up in the corner of the room above the toilet. Some things are better left to be forgotten.
Other features to note of the bathroom are the mysterious "Holes of Wonder" above the toilet.
Are these mainly for decoration, in order to break up the monotony of the wallpaper? Or did they actually serve a purpose at one point in time, possibly holding up some strange and wonderful circa 1928 bathroom artifact that has been absconded and auctioned off on ebay? There are a few more of these holes throughout the room, but cleverly more hidden. But these four holes, in such prominence and such uniform rectangular manner, must mean something more than just random vandalism. And unlike such fascinating and monumental happenings of when an image of Jesus miraculously appears on a potato, or an image of Elvis forms from common mildew on a sponge in someone's kitchen, note the smiley-face imprint on the bottom of the second picture, where the two holes are used as eyes. Yet, noone has called Ripley's yet.
Enough about the bathroom. Back to the fore-mentioned story of the radiator. First of all, every night, like clockwork, around 3:15 AM, the radiator would wake us up with an amazing sound, as if someone from the depths of the building were banging the pipes with a hammer, twisting long-forgotten and rusted nuts, and generally having a hell of a repair time. Actually, it sound more like a little leprechaun was INSIDE our radiator doing this handiwork. But I know of no self-respecting leprechaun who would wake up precisely at 3;15 AM to do this.
The further adventures of the radiator occured over the four days. On Sunday night, it hardly worked well at all, causing us to crank it all the way up to 11 (well, actually 5 is the maximum setting). Every night, it got steadily warmer. By Wednesday night, the little hellion of cast iron had turned our room into a complete hothouse, causing my wife to have the worst headache she's ever had. At this point, the radiator was already dialed into 'snowflake', the little icon below the 1. Calling the head desk at 1AM, and asking questions about it only recieved this answer:"Set the dial to 5 for maximum heat, set it to the snowflake to turn it off. Anywhere in the middle and it will make terrible noises." I inquired further about a little switch that was on the dial, and noone at the front desk knew what it did. Thank you.
And so, with our radiator set to snowflake, I opened the window, slowly of course, so as not to have the entire window fall out on to the frozen ground two stories below. I also set a fan (that was stored in the closet) to pull the air into the room. Life became somewhat bearable. At 3:15AM the ghost (and/or leprechaun) struck again with his nightly repair job on the Inn's heating system.
And so the story ends. While I am not much of a complainer, I am one of those silent grumpy consumers that most companies never hear from, but yet continue to tell their friends of harrowing stories on products that they should never use, or in this case, visit. Strangely, I was ready to go off on the desk people this time when I checked out, when they would ask the customary "Was everything okay?" NO!! I would respond, regailing them with stories of nightly radiator repair jobs on radiators that don't work, and bathroom craftsmanship that would make any 3rd grader proud. But they didn't ask. They did tell me that they added a dollar on to my bill for each night that would go to the Yellowstone Some Such Or Other fund.
It should be said that, in general, the employees were pleasant enough all around. And aside from waiting for 25 minutes for a bagel and a yogurt to arrive from the kitchen to our table one morning, they were competent enough. However, food is expensive throughout the park. This I can only assume is so from the fact that the government does not actually run the various inns and lodges here; they are run by a company with a cool sounding name, Xanterra, and in order to increase their profit even more, a large supply of their employees are imported from Eastern European countries which I presume they can pay an even more paltry rate than they can to any of the unemployed Americans that currently exist. Of course, one side effect of this is that they are probably more pleasant than the typical fast-food teen who would blankly stare at you while tossing your fries out of the drive-thru window.
This whole thing might sound like one big running complaint. And, I guess, it is. But these were just things that I would expect to be taken care of, expecially for $92 a night during off-season. That's why I didn't go into the other details, the little things that one would expect of an aging building that's seen it's fair share of earthquakes, and quite frankly, could just slide into a brand spanking new boiling pit of water that can appear overnight. These little things include the drywall/plaster cracks in the ceilings, the way the doors didn't quite close properly, and the way people sounded like an entire marching band as they tromped around in large boots in the room above us. These little, age-worn things are to be expected. "Holes of Wonder," however, should be at least patched up.
As I walked the halls to and from the various destinations I needed to get to, I would often peek into the rooms of others as they were leaving or entering, just to see if they were sharing the same type of hotel joy that we were experiencing. Across the hall from our room, my heart sank as I noted a newly installed shower in the room that was just then being vacated by it's guests. I spoke to them, "I see you've got a shower in your room." The man replied,"Yeah, but it's worthless. No matter how you adjust it, the shower head only spits out scalding water." Glee filled my heart once more, as it was good to know that I had compatriots in my misery. Funny how that happens.